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What is the “Mother of all Bombs”?

Credit: Business Insider
by TR Pakistan

The GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast, also known as the “Mother of All Bombs” was used for the first time on Thursday, 13 April 2017. The bomb, launched in Afghanistan’s eastern province of Nangarhar, is currently the most powerful non-nuclear weapon in the United States arsenal. It is also the largest-ever satellite-guided, air-delivered weapon in history.

It was developed during the Iraq War and tested in 2003, but this is the first time it has been used in combat. It was made as a successor to the unguided 15,000 pound BLU-82 “Daisy Cutters” previously used in Vietnam and Afghanistan.

Technical specifications and composition

The bomb is 30ft (9m) long with a diameter of 40.5 inches and weighs 21,600lb (9,800kg). It is a GPS-guided munition that rests in a cradle on an airdrop platform inside an MC-130 transport plane. It is released from the cargo doors of the aircraft with the help of a drogue parachute. The guided bomb is stabilised and directed by four grid-like fins, and also has inertial gyro for pitch and roll control. The weapon is intended to have a high altitude release, allowing for greater distance between it and the delivery aircraft. It explodes shortly before hitting the ground; it is not capable of deep ground penetration but is a demolition bomb designed for a surface burst.

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The bomb contains 18,700 pounds of H6, an explosive that is a mixture of RDX (Cyclotrimethylene trinitramine), TNT, and aluminum. H6 is an Australian produced explosive composition that is used by the military for general purpose bombs. Composition H6 is a commonly used main charge filling for underwater blast weapons such as depth charges, mines, torpedoes and mine disposal charges. HBX compositions (HBX-1, HBX-3, and H6) are aluminized (powdered aluminum) explosives used primarily as a replacement for the obsolete explosive torpex. They are used as bursting charges in mines, depth bombs, depth charges, and torpedoes. HBX-3 and H-6 have lower sensitivity to impact and much higher explosion test temperatures as compared to torpex.

The bomb has a relatively thin casing in order to maximize the blast radius. It creates a massive blast wave that is a mile wide in every direction. 

The GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast Bomb is effective against hard-target entrances and soft-to-medium surface targets. It can also be used for landing zone clearance, and mine and beach obstacle clearance. The bomb provides a capability to perform psychological operations, attack large area targets, or hold at-risk threats hidden within tunnels or caves. 

The Russian military has also developed what it describes as the “Father of All Bombs.” It is claimed to be four times more powerful than the American bomb and uses more efficient explosives, with a yield equivalent to 44 tons of TNT. The temperature at the epicenter and its blast radius are reportedly twice that of its American counterpart.

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